A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Byrd Baylor (Everybody Needs a Rock), Steven Lindblom (How to Build a Robot), and Doreen Cronin (Clack, Clack, Moo).
- On this day in 1930 the name of Turkeyâ€™s largest city, Constantinople, is officially changed to Istanbul, though it had been called Istanbul since 1453 when a conquering Ottoman sultan gave it the moniker based on a Greek Phrase meaning â€śthe city.â€ť Read Leyla: The Black Tulip by Alev Lytle Croutier, illustrated by Kazuhiko Sano.
- In 1941, writer Virginia Woolf fills her pockets with stones, walks into a river and drowns. Read Nurse Lugtonâ€™s Curtain by Virginia Woolf, illustrated by Julie Vivas.
Today marks the birthday of Clara Lemlich, born in 1886 in Ukraine to a Jewish family. Following a pogrom in 1903, Clara and her family immigrated to the United States. She stood a mere five feet tall, but as Brave Girl, our book of the day, tells us, she had grit and was going to prove it.
No one will hire Claraâ€™s father; so to support her family this intrepid teenager goes to work in the garment industry, carrying her own sewing machine each day. That industry has set up harsh rules for workersâ€”a few minutes late means losing a half days pay, and a girl can be fired for pricking a finger and bleeding on the cloth. Working by day and going to school at night so she could learn English, Clara tries to make her way in the world. But as she begins to understand what is happening in the workplace, Clara finds herself smoldering with anger over the treatment of the women. She becomes an organizer of pickets and strikes; sheâ€™s arrested seventeen times and has six broken ribs to prove it. Then in 1909, Clara helps women organize the largest walkout of women workers in the history of the United States.
Melissa Sweet, one of our most accomplished illustrators for nonfiction picture books today, brings Clara and her fellow workers to life. As they decide to go on strike, the illustration shows them raising one arm in solidarity as Clara addresses her fellow workers in Yiddish. In these illustrations Clara has been made an appealing and sympathetic heroine, a girl that young readers can identify with and emulate. In the end Clara proves that in America, â€śwrongs can be righted, warriors can wear skirts and blouses, and the bravest hearts may beat in girls only five feet tall.â€ť
An endnote provides background for these events; this book will send both adults and students out to gather more material about the garment industry and the strike. Clara, by the way, lived to be 96, had two husbands and three children, and even helped organize the staff of her nursing home in later years.
For those hunting for exciting new subjects for Womenâ€™s History Month, you need to go no further than Clara and her fellow women strikers in 1909. With questions about unions in the headlines today, I am grateful for this book that not only tells Claraâ€™s story but also explains why workers had to fight for their rights in the 1900s. It helps explain to young readers that classic bumper sticker: â€śThe Labor Movement: The Folks Who Brought You the Weekend.â€ť
Hereâ€™s a page from Brave Girl:
Originally posted March 28, 2013. Updated for .